If you feel like it’s been forever since we had an Elena of Avalor article, you’d be right. Elena of Avalor went on a break for January and most of February to focus on important things like getting renewed for a third season. And while I was ecstatic to hear this news, I was also curious to know when Elena would finally come back to see us. Well, the time has come and Elena is back and this time she’s playing everyone’s favorite sport, Olaball! What’s that? You haven’t heard of it? It’s much better than hockey or football. I dare say it’s better than curling. It is not however better than soccer. NOTHING IS! Ahem. So how did Elena’s return compare to previous episodes? Let’s take a look!
Olaball gives us an in depth look at a character that really hasn’t gotten a lot of spotlight yet, Gabe the Royal Guard. Near the start of the episode, we learn that his father, now a baker, was once a star Olaball player. If you don’t know what this sport is, just imagine a Mesoamerican ball game involving putting a ball through a cement ring on the wall. Also imagine that the losers don’t get sacrificed at the end. Now you’ve got Olaball! In wanting to impress his father, Gabe joins the Olaball team only to find that he is miserable at the sport. Don’t worry Gabe, we’ve all been there. Elena steps in to help teach Gabe to be a great player, which involves teaching him how to be his own person and not live in his father’s footsteps. In the end, not only does Gabe earn his father’s respect as an Olaball player, but also as a royal guard, which is great since that is Gabe’s true calling!
Olaball definitely struck a chord with me. Sure, EVERY episode of Elena manages to do this, but this one really came at a perfect time. As I step into a new role at work, I often find myself asking myself if I’m doing things the way my previous supervisors would have done them? Am I making the right choices? Am I saying the right things? Would they be proud of me? But at the end of the day, what I have to remember is that it’s more important that I take what I’ve learned and find my own way to succeed. That’s the struggle that Gabe faces in this episode. He wants so badly to make his father proud that he often second guesses his instincts and tries to do things exactly how his father wants them, despite the way that Gabe just isn’t that person.
There’s a couple of elements at play that are really fun to look at. For one, I find it very interesting for a kid’s show that this episode highlights this conflict between son and parent. What I love about this conflict is that it’s empowering in many ways to tell children that, yes, they do get to be their own person. And sometimes you are going to want different things than your parents. And that’s okay! What matters is that you love what you do and show that through performing your job admirably. It’s a great episode for that young man or woman who wants to write or draw or sing when all their parents want for them is to be a football captain or a doctor. It’s a great feeling to know that this episode has this great lesson to remind us of, whether we’re a young boy or girl or even an adult like myself.
I also love that Gabe, who is easily the most prince charming buff guy of the cast, is terrible at sports. As the team over at Elena of Avalor often does, we are given an expectation of a character which is turned right over on its head. It’s a good reminder that our physical appearance does not define us. We all have strengths and weaknesses and we will often surprise those around us. No one that looks at Gabe would think he is not a great sports player. Yet, this episode took this shortcoming and used it to make me love his character. Thanks to Elena, he not only didn’t give up, but also found a way to make it his own. He took a fear of his, a weakness, and turned it into a strength. How awesome is that? It’s a great lesson for kids who might be struggling even with things like Math or Reading. Put enough time into something, find your own way to learn effectively, and you will succeed. That’s two amazing messages for all ages and it’s all within the span of 20 minutes of kid’s programming. If you ask me, that’s quite impressive!
Amidst all this Olaballing is story involving Isabel and visiting friend Katerina climbing up to the top of a tall structure and getting stuck. This ends up being Gabe’s chance to prove himself, but what I want to focus on here is the sheer amount of diversity in this show. It’s a completely mixed cast and I’m always so happy to see the rainbow of colors and cultures represented by team Avalor. I mention this once an episode, but these days, every bit of effortless diversity is cause for celebration.
The last topic I want to bring up for this episode is a little bit of behind the scenes goodness shared with me by the team. Near the end of the episode, a little girl wearing glasses and standing in a small crowd exclaims “He saved them!” It turns out the voice of this little girl came to Disney as part of the Make-A-Wish foundation. Cerys, who was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis wished to be an animated character in a Disney cartoon as she felt their characters were special and if she could be the voice of one, it would be there forever. The team behind Avalor not only captured her voice for the character but also based the character’s appearance on Cerys as well. I share this story for a few reasons. I love that this little girl’s wish came true, but I also love knowing the care that goes into every detail of this show. At the end of the day, I really just want you to watch Olaball and feel your heart warm at the moment with Cerys’ voice, knowing that thanks to Elena, she and her wish will live on forever.
Elena continues to impress and put a smile on my face. I always find that no matter how tired I am at the end of the day, if a new episode of Elena has aired, I must watch it and then I must write about it. The team always inspires me and always surprises me with the way they challenge our preconceptions of these characters. There were great lessons to be had, heartwarming moments to be shared, and if none of that does it for you, then you can at least admit that Elena’s new Olaball outfit was pretty darn fly. In any case, let me know what you thought of the episode in the comments and I’ll see you next time!